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dirty words in the dictionary

by hcgoldsmith profile


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(based on 2 ratings)
1 review

About the Story

an exploration of gaps, omissions, lacunae, and loops with regard to sex-words in Samuel Johnson's 1755 "Dictionary of the English Language"

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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful:
Circular Reference, March 22, 2015
by Sam Kabo Ashwell (Seattle)

This does (almost) precisely what it says on the tin: it is a linkified version of a sex and gender-related subset of Johnson's dictionary, plus some marginalia-like notations representing the thoughts of a reader, which suggest other cross-references.

Poking around in dictionary-like things can be fun; Diana Wynne Jones’ Tough Guide to Fantasyland could probably be considered as a CYOA (if so, it’d be one of the better ones). There, however, a lot of the enjoyment is of the discovery kind. This is more of a twinebound (adj. used of any work of choice-based interactive fiction in which the player’s experience of constrained or denied agency is a central rhetorical point) piece, the dictionary looping back heavily on itself in circular definitions and elision, relying on cultural assumptions which it avoids explaining.

I enjoy digging through old books dealing with sexuality – one of my most prized books is W.J. Truitt’s Nature’s Secrets Revealed: Scientific Knowledge of the Laws of Sex Life and Heredity, a Christian eugenics health-manual published in Ohio in 1916. The fun, in that kind of thing, lies in discovery: you know in general the variety of awfulness that it’s going to express, but the pleasure lies in finding strange extended metaphors, over-the-top illustrations, turns of phrase, weird theoretical deviations from the expected script. The much more constrained forms of dictionary entries means that DWitD doesn’t really provide any of that. So, a neat idea, but not as interesting as that idea promised to be.

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